President-Elect Trump: A Gift?

November 10, 2016



Imagine if you can, Donald Trump has arrived as a gift, to illuminate for us the American “shadow” at this pivotal moment in history. The Swiss Psychiatrist C.G. Jung refers to “the shadow” as the dark side of one’s self. The shadow, Jung wrote in 1963, “is that hidden, repressed, for the most part inferior and guilt-laden” aspect of our personality hiding out in the unconscious. Failure to recognize our shadow leaves us exposed to the destructive possession by our disowned shadow.

Are we prepared to see the message of the shadow, illuminating our ongoing collective cultural flaws—more prevalent and tolerated than we would like to admit—from narcissism and misogyny to racism and bigotry? Are we prepared to face the fact that our extractive neoliberal economic ideology has utterly failed us, including trade policies that Trump has shined a light on? Will we now address the lost dignity and fear among a majority of hard-working Americans while wealth soars among a small percentage of Americans to grotesque levels? Do we finally acknowledge the corruption of the special-interest-owned polity controlled by the donor and ruling classes who operate under different rules from the rest of us? The shadow points to lost trust in our institutions for good reason, from government to Wall Street to big business to mainstream media. Do we now see that wealth and winning at all cost is not success, that we lack urgency in dealing with the crisis in American education, or in our mental health crisis? (Yes, Trump appears mentally unstable.) Finally, and perhaps most dangerous in the long run, the shadow points to our lack of moral responsibility to deal with climate change with an urgency that is far beyond anything Obama has proposed.

Trump is of course a dangerous conman. The opportunist wants to “make America great again,” invoking a sense of loss among the vulnerable and cruelly seducing with false promises. But more deeply, is this call to recover our greatness not the shadow pointing to our inflated pride in the idea of American Exceptionalism? Is it not time we honor the greater and higher ideals America was founded upon – life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness – and the timeless and universal values of humility, grace, gratitude, and loving membership within the beautiful and diverse humanity we share with one another, and with all life itself?

A prescient article on the collapse of American Oligarchy, written by Capital Institute’s Science Advisor Dr. Sally Goerner in April, is well worth a revisit on this new “morning in America.” And her timely analysis of the psychological underpinnings of Trump when he won the Republican nomination has now become essential reading if we are to understand why “this neo-fascist upsurge is a classic consequence of the breakdown of the bonds of love, strength, and intelligence that hold a society together and why rebuilding these bonds is critical to our survival.”

It’s been a slippery slope to our current predicament in my adult lifetime. I experienced this slide first hand on Wall Street beginning in the early 1980s, where our terminal, finance-driven neoliberal ideology first manifested, and then metastasized throughout society. So blame me. Turns out we were more clever than smart.

On one level, waking up on 11-9 felt worse than when I experienced 9-11 first hand. I have had very difficult conversations with my children, one of whom had to field questions from her second graders about whether “grandma would be deported.” It’s all incomprehensible, terrifying, and as my daughter said, it’s an embarrassment.

And yet…

The “great change” we must usher in was not happening before. It was not going to happen under Hillary Clinton. The mere fact that the Clintons have amassed a $200mm fortune since the former President left office, without creating any economic enterprise, is beyond unseemly. With hindsight, it was a mistake of the Democratic Party to allow her to run, despite her unmatched experience and the appeal of the first woman to reach the White House. The self-important Party hacks were simply “not serious” about the real systemic change that awaits, and which is required. And that decision now has very real consequences. They could be catastrophic. Or maybe not? The stock market recovered quickly, predictions are a fool’s errand when the future is truly unknowable. Maybe this is just the jolt we need to seriously begin to question who we are as a nation…what values we stand for… And what responsibility the elite – in politics, business and finance, and in the media – has to the health of the greater whole.

Will we devolve into a second civil war? Will we destroy our last chance to deal with climate change responsibly? It’s unknowable today.

Or perhaps we will usher in a positive 21st century American Revolution and inspire the world again. Such a revolution will be built on a new story to replace the growth-at-all-costs, extreme neoliberalism that we have most certainly outgrown, and is in conflict with our understanding of how complex systems behave. This new story of the Integral Age entails a fundamental and profound shift to holistic thinking across all domains, with dynamic networks replacing failed command and control institutions. It demands clarifying means and ends in our economics and aligning them with the universal principles that define all other systems that survive over time, and the emergence of a regenerative society that is most certainly underway. Not overseen by Trump of course, but in the opportunity he will afford us, difficult as it is, to stare at our shadow over the coming four years, a mere blip in the course of history.





  • Birju

    fascinating read John, thanks for your perspective as always. love seeing words like shadow and integral in the framing more and more. some of what comes to my mind-
    +what shadow am i missing? i hear you outlining a collective shadow in trump, would love a similar reflection on collective shadow embodied by clinton.
    +given your integral language, one perspective (that i’m trying on) can be that we have a shift in balance of power towards a red/blue state (which seems to be half the populous), while the previous orange/green regime could not integrate the shadow (and thus not transcend and include). in this age and time, this has the potential to topple the entire spectrum in a more spectacular fashion than our alternative.
    +seems interesting to me that the person who won the election himself seems to also embody more traditional orange meme with shadow/projection process. how interesting that this was so attractive to the red/blue populous (eg, he ‘others’ who we ‘other’ AND he’s successful…)

    hope to talk more about this, either here or elsewhere 🙂 and if a bit of context of value, this graphic might be nice-


    • John Fullerton

      It sure does feel like a regression to lower levels. Hoping it’s just a “one step backward” in order to gain the momentum to finally break through. Like the wind-up of a pitcher, needs to start by leaning back on the hind foot. I think it’s imperative that we treat it as such, and not succumb to the defeatism of seeing it as anything more permanent. Remember, the majority of America DID NOT vote for Trump. And i’d guess the majority of those who did vote for Trump, were not really voting FOR Trump and certainly do not condone his personal flaws, but rather, they chose to overlook those flaws (as hard as that is for me to comprehend) and voted against the status quo which I totally understand and I imagine if i were in some of their shoes, might have done the same.
      thanks for sharing!

      • Birju

        Its so awesome (and a great lesson) for me to see you respond to just about every comment here! Thanks for teaching me with your actions 🙂

  • Steven Fisch

    The situation and causes succinctly and perfectly described. Now we all have to be prepared to stand up and be heard against threats to individual freedoms and constitutional rights and obligations.

    • John Fullerton

      yes vigilance on many fronts! And maybe, just maybe, a call to action for the many good people in positions of power and responsibility to rise the occasion.

  • Sandy Wiggins

    I agree, John. As I’ve navigated the stages of grief this week, I’ve slowly come to the realization that the stark contrasts between the world that we are working to create and the realities of the world that are now likely to emerge will actually open new opportunities to support, and perhaps accelerate, change. Policy agendas will certainly go backwards for the next four years (or at least two if there is a midterm revolt). Trading in fear, xenophobia, bigotry, even hate will drive us toward isolationism, environmental collapse, greater income disparity, segregation and further entrenchment in the dysfunctional economic system that supports all of that. But as greater numbers of people wake up to the shadow, they will be looking for alternatives (or revolution).

    • John Fullerton

      water only boils when you turn up the heat! pressures are building…

  • Shannon Agee-Jones

    Thanks for this article, John. It helped me put some words to the trajectories I was feeling. Peace.

    • John Fullerton

      glad to hear. thank you.

  • Leonard Joy

    Wonderful John! Yes, this could be the gift we needed. But
    we need to act now to harness the passionate concern that is felt by so many while it is hot.

    Can we learn from Iceland and their creation of a Pirate
    Party to hold the full range of progressives? Can we do what they did, and in
    so short a space of time? Can we do so in a way that provides a path to establishing
    a process of collective discernment that models a true democracy?

    Can we draw on and benefit from David Van Reybrouck’s
    ‘sortition’ ideas (and Quaker process) as we do so?

    We have an opportunity for fundamental progressive shift,
    but we need to act quickly. Intensive networking is called for. Your statement could
    surely find the resonance to initiate this.

    • John Fullerton

      let’s do it!
      A new party may be above my pay grade. but why not…

  • Mark Phillips

    The greatest lesson I’ve learned so far is that political discourse occurs in an echo chamber. We mostly feed ourselves with the information that aligns with our own political bias, with zero empathy for the other side of the coin. Within this paradigm, everyone who voted for Trump is a racist, sexist, homophobe (which is the conversation I’m seeing in my networks). Having parents who voted for Trump (much to my terror), I believe this is hardly the case. Instead I now perceive how deeply segregated and reductionist the information networks are, which maintain the silos of separation in which we all exist.

    My question: how do we elevate our level of discourse towards an integral perspective that transcends the American political binary and find what Courtney White of the Quivira Coalition calls the radical center? Without asking this question, we are doomed to the false choice offered by a two-party system, which I believe ironically emerges from the same dualism inherent in the collective unconscious of our western mind.

    • John Fullerton

      I share you desire to elevate above the false dualism. I hope my piece made a stab at that. But no doubt we are locked in pretty good. Effective communication becomes harder within our silos…

    • John Fullerton

      Interesting point on the two party system. I have always thought of the conservative and progressive elements as two important influences that need to remain in balance, shifting back and forth as the times demand. Unfortunately, both parties have been corrupted by the donor class (billionaires and corporations). If a “radical center” can hold/harmonize and honor each valid influence – conservative and progressive – not simply be a lowest common denominator compromise, them i’m in. But I worry that what’s missing is more complex, more difficult to imagine. As you rightly say, it must transcend. This is the new, simple narrative we must coax into life. It must be reducible to a bumper sticker, AND, it must be rigorous and real. Aligned with our latest science, our ancient wisdom traditions, while evoking our shared humanity. That’s the proverbial great american novel, the new story, we so desperately need. Regeneration, holistically understood, will need to be at it’s core. This to me is now self-evident, but difficult to communicate into a reductionist dualistic mindset. My guess is the new narrative emerges from the millennials, in the form of art, perhaps a global collaborative work of art, powerful enough to break through. Maybe good people are working on it right now. It will say to Trump and his family, to Lee Raymond and John Paulson, and yes to Clinton Inc as well: “Stand down. It’s time you go.” Only then will the right people and policies fall in place. And I believe faster than you can say “you’re fired!” How do we catalyze one work of art?!

      • Mark Phillips

        Thanks for that. I like the idea of red vs. blue as a sort of “Yin and Yang” dynamic. Hadn’t thought of that before.

        Looking at the Facebook feed, I am losing faith in my millennial friends that an integral perspective will emerge, although maybe this is now our life-changing political event that will teach us new perspectives. Or maybe we all just need to raise children and mature a bit as homo sapiens. Likely both. Either way, I am in on cultural-political-economic holism for the long haul.

        Closing with this piece from Charles Eisenstein, which aligns closely with this topic of integral politics:

  • John Fullerton

    Nicely stated! Love “regenerative kaizen” – although it’s a bit redundant since regenerative is based on continuous learning/adapting as much as anything else! This is the point people miss when they imagine regenerative only in a living systems or agriculture context. THE unique quality about humans as distinct from the rest of nature, is our ability and craving to continuously learn within our lifetimes. The rest of nature adapts through natural selection over multiple generations. Much less opportunity to regenerate quickly, which is the task at hand. That we are human means the regenerative potential is beyond our imagination!

    • Doc Hall

      The kaizen tag on the end is from the lean community. It signifies going to where activity is real, to where work is done, and learning through actual doing. Sorry that this reference was not explained.

      The beauty of regeneration as a term is that it is general. It can mean regeneration of ecology, of a business and economic system, of a political system, and of us as human beings, individually and collectively. People can interpret the term as they wish, and it doesn’t seem easy for propagandists to corrupt it.

      But that generality is also its weakness. Regardless of grand theory or public policy, real change happens when people do differently — and behave differently. Where I live, voters went for Trump 3 to 1. Speak to them of generalities and they spout ideology — or worse. Focus them on something like the water issues here, and what can be done, and they lose all that. They intrinsically realize that it is a common problem.

  • John Fullerton

    maybe the threat of what you describe will get us all off our comfortable behinds and really engage! find our purpose! and we can make real change much faster as a result, and in the process make any new coal investments that occur in the short run look pretty stupid before much permanent damage is done.

    • Brian Nelson

      It certainly is my hope, and it had better be the hope of any individual who recognizes (and does not have a coin’s share in) the fossil fuel blight will choke us all to death. JOBS can come as renewables, as you and I have talked in past – this “oil and gas” con of economic growth only assures we trade fancy boats and faster cars for swamps of caustic carbon stew and an ever heating globe. But fossil fuels now has a Big Brother in the presidency, so that job just got much harder for all of us. 4 year set-back. But keep on pushing. That’s our job.

  • Allan Savory

    John well said. Am wracking my brain trying to think of ways to turn this dangerous situation constructive – as I learned long ago the role of governments is to develop policies. Failing policies have led to the demand for change almost at any cost, but the Trump administration has no more idea about developing policies holistically than any previous government and thus we will see some changes but overall more of the same. How I wonder do we get through to their policy think tanks if such exist?

    • John Fullerton

      My dear fellow brain wracker,
      The problem is all the policy think tanks, on left and right, are trapped in the reductionist “left-right” fight, while accepting the over arching narrative that prosperity comes through growth of any kind. It’s really quite a perfect trap we have created for ourselves. My thinking has moved to the urgent need to construct the key firewalls necessary to keep us from spinning out of control, or slipping backward into free-fall. If we get those in place, the fury Trump will unleash in Washington (he has to hire 4000 bureaucrats to do work he has no clue about – imagine what the swamp will serve up, and the chaos that will ensue). There’s a good chance he will break a law or create a national security risk along the way, and lord knows there are people on both sides of the aisle, in and out of government and the military, just waiting for an opportunity to crush him, or at a minimum, overwhelm him in a quagmire of his own making. But this will require courage and strength. Time will tell.

  • John–maybe Trump being elected is the jolt you need to start the “Regenerative Capitalism” podcast? 🙂

    We need your ideas out there. Writing takes too long. Happy to help you get it started.


    • John Fullerton

      Thanks Ryan! Message received…

  • Mark Phillips

    Thanks for that Doc. I think you’re so right about local remaining viable and valid. If Hillary had won, I’d think the same thing. And so too for Bernie. As small as the work can sometimes seem, I think place is where we effectively engage in work as deep as this.

  • The Stockholm syndrom of 47% of post election America does possibily offer quicker revolution, though likely more violent and destructive.

  • willszal

    Excellent Post John!

    Inspired by this analysis, I’ve been thinking about the ways that Trump can be a mirror for us. There are numerous examples that I could use for this; climate change is the one that comes to mind at the moment. Trump is a climate change denier, and plans on intensifying fossil fuel extraction, which is the exact opposite of the the rhetoric we find with our allies such as Naomi Klein. But aren’t we climate change deniers in our own way too? We haven’t taken significant measures towards ending climate change. If we really cared about the issue, we’d be implementing a radically different structures, including regenerative agriculture, localized communities, a massive social justice agenda, a fundamental redesign of private property, money, and the role of government, and decreasing our energy usage by 99%. And yet nothing remotely like this has started coming about on a significant scale.

    One of my other favorite election “postmortems” is “Democrats, Trump, and the Ongoing, Dangerous Refusal to Learn the Lesson of Brexit,” by Glenn Greenwald at the Intercept.

    Having been part of the permaculture and homesteading movements for quite some time now, with exposure to Deep Green Resistance, I’ve been of the opinion that there’s a distinct possibility that I could outlive the United States [and I’m not planning on having an exceptionally long life]. And what I mean by this is that all organisms have a lifetime, and I think the US isn’t far from the stage of decomposition. When I say this I’m reminded of a quote from Vinay Gupta, “What you people call collapse is living in the same conditions as the people who grow your coffee.”

    I see two divergent meta-trends relevant to this conversation. On the one hand, there’s the “one-world-goverment/corporation” trajectory that includes the likes of the Goldman Sachs, the Gates Foundation, Monsanto, and Facebook that is a movement towards consolidation and homogenization. On the other hand there’s the “decentralized local living economies” trajectory, including groups like Local Futures, Dark Mountain, The Greenhorns, and Black Lives Matter, focused on values such as human dignity, interbeing [to use the words of Charles Eisenstein], and local autonomy. I think we’ll see both continue to gain momentum.

    Also, why are public figures going along with Trump’s election? To cite Glenn yet again, why isn’t leadership coming out to denounce the Trump’s election? Why is everyone talking about a smooth transition? If we think that Trump is an indicator that our society has crossed a line that we’re not okay with, we need to do something about this, not just pretend it’s all going to be okay…